When Mrs adamolekun came back home that day, she scolded her sons and told them some old bible story about why we should be nice to people that are less privileged. the boys were repentant, or so it seemed until the following Friday when they came back early again. this time I was in the bathroom washing some clothes that had been left there by my madam and her husband. Adegoke was the first to talk. in fact he seemed friendly and seemed to be Willing to start afresh. he asked me if he could help and I said “no” . he flew into rage and started to turn the buckets that contained the clothes over. He poured them over my head and kicked me vigorously. Even in the intense pain the kicks gave me, I was scrambling all around the place to gather my ,madam’s cloths. we were still on this when his brother joined in and added some slaps for the equation to get balance. I was wet all over and my body hurt like crazy.
Their mother was my angel, the minute they heard her car come into the compound , they ran out of the bathroom and dressed up in a flash. they changed out of their wet clothes and looked like they had been dry all day. I on the another hand was a basket case., trying to pack the clothes off the floor and trying to put the house in order at the same time.
She came in and met me in the bathroom, she was furious. she assumed that I was lazy and had been playing all day.
“do you even know what you’re here Mary?”
confused and not really understanding her English, I answered her
” madam… I dey hear word o… I wan finish the work but karsala burst for toilet. I just dey try do am now.”
by saying this, I made her even angrier. she asked me a different question, and I was answering in a way that did not even tally at all. what was worse was that she had also interpreted my ” karsala come burst for toilet” to mean that I had been purging.
” what did you eat that you’re purging? have you used the toilet carelessly now? I hoped you didn’t use my own toilet o ?
you better make sure you flush properly, I must not perceive any odour from that place.”
I was confused. I didn’t know how to explain myself properly and it was starting to become obvious to me that we would have that communication problem. this was a problem that I had never anticipated.
Mary paused to see if duke was sleeping, he had seemed so quiet all through the time she had been talking. but he was awake, he was listening. she decided to continue.
“when I first got to Mrs adamolekun’s house, I also had another problem, it was the problem of hygiene. you see, where I come from, bathing was not an everyday thing, it was rather something that we all did together in the big stream that ran across out village. some of he cleanest of us bathed twice a week, and a man who only bathed once a month was not considered dirty. life was simple and infact, some of us believed that bathing too often would cause us to lose our immunity.
Mrs adamolekun was not pleased with the way I handled my hygiene when I got to her house. so when she noticed that I only bathed once or twice a week, she started to restrict me from things. I could not use their plates, or spoons or any other cutlery for that matter. she gave me a cup, a spoon and a plate that were supposed to be mine and only mine. I was not to use anything else in the house.
I didn’t mind much… after all, where I came from, we also did things like that. every one had their own cutleries in order to prevent misunderstanding. what however started to open my eyes to the fact that I needed to improve my hygiene was that she also started to restrict me from the furniture except if I was cleaning them. once , she came in and met me seated on the small armchair. on the corridor she was so furious and even said to me
“get your filthy body out of my chair… is that what you came here to do?”
I jumped out of the chair and really, after that day I never sat in it. things were different, Mrs adamolekun was not making conscious efforts to maltreat me, but somehow she had started to.
The smallest of her three children was a small boy of very light build. it seemed to me that he was always sick. he was his mother’s sorrow and it seemed to me that he would die very soon. I liked him best in the house because he didn’t victimise me. he was a splendid little angel and it often broke my heart that he was always sick.
often times, he would sit with me and tell me about his day at school, it was through him that I got the hang of basic arithmetic. when his brothers teased or maltreated me, he became a sort of protector, often reporting them to their mother.
The last character in the house, and one that I barely ever saw was their father. a middle aged man who only came home something like once a month. sometimes he spent the whole weekend, other times he left the same day. but Mr Adamolekun had a little bit of a bad habit, this bad habit not his would turn out to be the biggest factor that helped me decide that I didn’t want to stay in their house anymore.
You see, duke, Mr Adamolekun had a weakness for meat.
considering how much meat he ate, its surprising that he was not fat. He also had another problem, he was an acute insomniac. He almost never slept. whatever sleep he got was often short and light. so often times, after the whole house had gone to bed, he would walk around, talking to himself, checking on the children and just basically walking around now when you brought his first problem together with the second, what we have now a man going around the house, eating meat anytime he could find any. One Saturday morning, after my Oya had left for his has as usual, madam can to the kitchen where I was washing plates and said,
” Mary… who ate the meat I put in the oven?’ I of course knew who did. but how was I supposed to tell her that her husband walks around the house, eating meat? so I did what every good housemaid should do.
” madam, I no know o…”
but my madam was not to be deterred. she had obviously been patiently waiting, hoping to catch the person who had been staying her meat. she had the wrong person but she didn’t know. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her so I just kept quiet and continued with my plates washing.
my madam must have interpreted this to be defiance. she walked upon to me and slapped me hotly three times. she was furious.
” you stupid creature, you stupid stupid ingrate. ” she was saying a bun of things that I don’t even remember right now. I wept. it wasn’t from bitterness, it was just the sting of the slaps. she stopped at the slaps and ignored me for the rest of the day. Now that was what made me sad. my madam was not a bad woman, but I had made her so angry. I disliked my Oga at that minute.
The following weekend, when my oga came back, my madam told him of my theft. I as a bit happy that my oga would at last tell my madam where the meat went. but all he did was grunt sheepishly and continue reading the newspaper that he was reading. I was dumbfounded. when my madam told him that she slapped me a couple of times, he just looked at me briefly and said…
” you should discipline her properly. these Igede people are little less than animals. if she’s stealing, you need to show her what will happen to her if she steals from you again.
My madam had chipped in saying
” Mary is a good girl really, the stealing is just a bad habit. ”
My oga grunted again and that was the end of the conversation. I had been eavesdropping, hoping to be vindicated but it was not to be. I was sad. I made up my mind that day that once I left the home for Christmas, I would not be coming back. ”
There was a knock at the door and before either Mary or duke could answer, dukes father came into the room. Mary stood up
with her hands at her back like she always did when her boss came into a room. duke remained in the bed, using his small palms to support his chin.
” hey there duke, Mary said you need to speak to me?”
duke looked at me, angry at the fact that I had obviously deceived him into thinking that his father had agreed. I looked away from him. his father, noticing the tension between us said as gaily as he could
“why don’t I take you out for iced cream tomorrow and you can tell me all about how you are getting along with Mary?
“okay” duke said . then he stood up and went to the closet to get his pajamas and walked until the bathroom. as far as he
was concerned, the conversation was over.
Mary’s boss was actually twisting a key around in his hands. he looked like he was embarrassed. Mary almost felt like saying ”
I swear I didn’t tell him anything” but she didn’t. instead, she just continued to look at her feet. she was still looking at her feet when her boss left the room.
To be continued soon